What Is The International A Level, And How Does It Work

21K School · Feb 8, 2023 · 4 min read

What Is The International A Level, And How Does It Work

Some of the best high schools in New Zealand offer an educational program called International A Levels. Many people who pursue this course will eventually be accepted into some of the best colleges in the world, including HarvardStanford, and Cambridge.

A Levels are likely something most students and parents have heard about, but surely, very few individuals understand this pathway in detail. First, did anyone know that International A Levels have various “flavours”? The University of Cambridge’s Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE) is the most popular “flavour” assessment service for the A Levels.

The International A Levels are based on the UK high school education system to give some background. A global student base receives an internationally modified version of the British high school education from institutions like Edexcel and Cambridge.

Each of the learning objectives a student should be expecting to master throughout their A Level certification is laid out in the syllabus for Edexcel and Cambridge topics, which is very well-designed and follows a logical, organized format. One may quickly obtain the syllabus for a course they are interested in pursuing by searching for phrases like “Cambridge International A Level Physics syllabus” or “Edexcel International A Level Geography syllabus.”

Curriculum Organization

The AS Level and A2 Level are the two subsets of the A Level:

  • The AS Level, the first year of the A Level course, includes a series of exams after the year.
  • The A2 Level, the second year of the A Level, includes a new set of exams after the year.

Students will only obtain the AS qualification if students decide to take an AS Level topic and its tests without registering for the A2 Level the following year. New Zealand can apply this to the University Entrance (UE) exam.

Students often enrol in four to five AS Level courses during their second to last year of high school. They will then take three to four of those courses at the A2 Level, frequently taking additional subjects at the AS Level to fill out their schedule in their senior year of high school (without completing the whole A Level).

While this is the average time frame for completing A Levels if anyone wants to compete for admission to the best US colleges, even four A Levels won’t be enough to set them apart from the other applicants.

Suppose Mr A is from Auckland, New Zealand, and had the good fortune to be accepted into the Macleans College Accelerate Program. Mr A took four Cambridge International AS Level subjects—English Literature, Maths, Physics, and Chemistry—in Year 11 (Year 10 in Australia, in NZ, and 10th grade in the US) and then studied those four subjects at the A2 Level, the following year (the second to last year of high school), along with AS Biology.

Route Difficulty

After studying the subject at the international GCSE level, most students will continue to the Edexcel/Cambridge International AS or A Level pathway. This is frequently the suggested route since international GCSEs offer you the solid grounding you need for challenging Level assignments. However, it is unnecessary; intelligent students may enrol in the AS Level course without studying the International GCSE course.

But the transition from Edexcel/Cambridge International GCSEs to AS Level coursework frequently involves a significant increase in difficulty. The AS Level requires students to think more thoroughly about the subject matter and use what anyone has learned to solve issues in novel situations.

Many times, students lack basic knowledge of this leap. Since students previously failed the subject due to underestimating its complexity, the vice principal convened an assembly in Year 11 to warn students against taking AS Chemistry after studyingIGCSE Edexcell Combined Sciences.

Fortunately, many resources, including textbooks, study guides, past papers, online notes,  YouTube video tutorials, and other helpful websites, are easily accessible for Cambridge A Levels.

Examinations and Evaluation

Nearly all Edexcel/Cambridge AS and A Level topics are externally assessed, except for a few arts subjects like drama, music, and photography. For Cambridge, exams are given in June and November, while for Edexcel, they are shown in June, October, and January.


Most students take one set of tests towards the conclusion of AS and A2, but if one believes that one underperformed and would like to raise the mark, one can retake exams at one of the other testing dates. The CGA’s Edexcel International A Levels give the most excellent options for retakes, with three exam dates scheduled throughout the year.


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